Creating an Outline Using Margin Notes

I’m currently writing the various sections of the dissertation’s literature review. I usually have the narrative, or flow, of what I want to write about in my mind and don’t map it out. I’m very fortunately that I’m able to visualize the flow beforehand, as this saves me a lot of time. If I don’t know how to write about my chosen topic, or I can’t see the narrative, I sometimes just start typing. This allows the information I’ve read ahead of time to come to mind and the piece, for the most part, works out rather well. Other times, however, it’s a mish-mash of thoughts, topic sentences, and a disjointed mess.

I over the weekend I set about writing a section on the Canadian Copyright Act, emphasizing the fair dealing sections, and the lack of copyright comprehension by educators. The seven pages contained some well-written paragraphs, but lacked a good flow. I felt a bit like a pinball when I re-read the piece. The topics (and the poor reader) were bouncing from one subtopic to the next, and then back again.

Self-diagnosis writing problems can be tough, but as an academic writing tutor at UVic, I’ve learnt a few tricks that can quickly get the heart of the matter and offer a remedy to disjointed work.

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Pulling Together Phenomenology Annotations

Over the last few weeks I posted my annotations from Vagle’s Crafting Phenomenological Research (introductionchapter 1, and chapter 2), with last week’s post about the highlights and insights from the first three chapters. These postings illustrate my method of annotating a book, which is much different from annotating a journal article.

The first section of the book was only 42 pages, which is quite small compared to other textbooks. Normally, I write the highlights and insights after each chapter because they usually contain much more information. The highlights and insights are important to how I write because collectively they provide me with enough information to create the narrative for a section I’m about to write.

The insights, along with questions that remain unanswered, are sometimes added to my papers. For example, the phrase “never-nothing-going-on” is an excellent phrase that will make its way into my dissertation’s methodology section. I feel it accurately describes the optimum mental approach to conducting interviews.

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Balancing Teaching and Dissertation Writing

DeadlineEarly last week I was successfully following my work schedule, which includes re-shooting about 30 videos for the online course I’ll teach in fall, revising my dissertation introduction chapter, and writing the first draft of the lit review chapter.

Then I received a phone call that changed my work schedule.

A week earlier I had applied to teach another online course. My application was successful and I now have 27 more videos to shoot.

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Writing Accountability

November was a very productive month as I move closer to completing my masters of education thesis. On Twitter I discovered a group of academic writers using the hashtag #AcwriMo (short for academic writing month). As I began following the hashtag I read posts about people’s writing accomplishments, which started to influence how many words I was writing. Could I keep up with everyone? Was sharing accomplishments really that helpful?

Source: Microsoft image

On November 6 I discovered that not only did people tweet their writing accomplishments, but there is also a Google Doc where the writers state their monthly writing goals and the log how many words they have written each day.

By the end of November there were about 370 participants from around the world logging their writing accomplishments. Like the others, I also logged my accomplishments and also found out something important about academic writing: It is not an isolate endeavour. Sharing my goals and daily tally were important to me because it gave me a sense of belonging and, on days where I didn’t feel like writing, it spurred me on because I didn’t want to be left behind.

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Writing Tip: Literature Review Word Selection

I recently wrote the literature review chapter for my masters thesis. While it wasn’t the first research lit review I’d written, it had been a few years and I was, admittedly, more than a bit rusty. Feedback from my supervisor indicated that while my logic was well presented and the chapter flowed well, I had to take my writing up a notch.

I thought of the tools at my disposal and quickly came up with a three-point plan.

1. Read research papers for writing style and not content
2. Re-read my previous research papers
3. Generate a word list

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